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New Lokayukta Bill 'mockery of judicial process': Gujarat governor Kamala Beniwal

Tuesday, 3 September 2013 - 5:51pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: PTI
Beniwal, who has been locked in a protracted turf battle with the Modi government over appointment of Lokayukta, had on Monday declined to give assent to the bill and returned it to the government for reconsideration by the House.

"This is nothing but mockery of the whole judicial process," Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal said in stinging remarks against the Narendra Modi government as she returned the new Lokayukta Bill for reconsideration by the legislative assembly.

Beniwal, who has been locked in a protracted turf battle with the Modi government over appointment of Lokayukta, had on Monday declined to give assent to the bill and returned it to the government for reconsideration by the House.

"I am of the view that the provisions of Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 are detrimental to the interest of public welfare and the state legislature needs rethinking on the issues mentioned in the interest of the people of Gujarat," she said in the seven-page note sent with the bill to the state government.

"This is nothing but the mockery of the whole judicial process," she said in the note which castigated the Modi government for several flaws in the legislation.

She termed the procedure proposed in the bill for appointment of the Lokayukta as "faulty".

The bill proposes a six-member selection committee headed by the chief minister for appointing the Lokayukta. The Speaker of the legislative assembly, a minister nominated by the chief minister, Leader of Opposition, a judge of the high court nominated by the Chief Justice and Chief Vigilance Commissioner of the state will be its other members.

"The above provisions regarding the constitution of the selection committee show that out of six members, four will be definitely and undoubtedly belonging to one political party-- the CM, Speaker, minister appointed by CM, and Vigilance Commissioner.

"The very constitution of the selection committee suggests that Leader of Opposition and judge would be in minority and their voice would have hardly any significance because their objections could be easily overruled," the Governor said.

"The above provision for the appointment of the Lokayukta cannot stand the scrutiny of any rationality and is in clear violation of the mandate which has been reflected from several decisions of the Supreme Court from time to time," Beniwal said in the note.

She also described as defective the definition of competent authority in the legislation, provisions relating to qualifications for the anti-corruption watchdog, matters not subject to investigation by the Lokayukta besides others.

Under the Gujarat Lokayukta Act 1986, which the new bill seeks to replace, the power of selection of the state's anti-corruption watchdog was vested with the Governor and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Bypassing the state government, the Governor had on August 25 appointed retired Justice R A Mehta to the post of Lokayukta, which was lying vacant for last eight years then, setting off a prolonged legal tussle between the Modi government and Raj Bhawan.

On April 2, the state Assembly had passed the bill, which aimed at giving sweeping powers to the state government in the appointment of the Lokayukta.

The new bill was brought after the state government finally lost the bitter legal fight with Beniwal when her decision was upheld by the high court and the Supreme Court earlier this year.

However, in a twist to the ongoing row between the state government and Governor Beniwal, Mehta, whose appointment as Lokayukta was opposed by Modi, had on August 7 declined to assume charge, saying the controversy had "denigrated" the office of the anti-graft watchdog.

Slamming the Modi government for calling him "biased" and "anti-government", Mehta, in a letter to Beniwal, had said a Lokayukta unwanted by the government cannot get the necessary and timely support from it.




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